The End of the Beginning- We Made It!

 

Wow wow wowie wow! We finished the trail!! After walking 2,660.1 miles in just a day under five months all of a sudden we found ourselves crossing the Canadian border on Monday morning. What a huge adventure and experience it has been! I remember starting the trail way back in April and Luke telling me that by the time we got to Washington it would be a “victory lap” and that we would “fly right through it.”

Yoga at the Monument!

Yoga at the Monument!

It turns out, Washington was one of the most challenging sections of the trail- we faced washed out trail sections, huge downed trees, giant climbs, exposed ridge walking, tough rocky trails, frozen fingers & toes, much more rain than we were prepared for and snow! We also got to walk on top of beautiful ridges, enjoy some gloriously sunny days, look out over huge views, work our bodies hard, eat a whole bunch of extra treats to stay warm and just enjoy the heck out of the trail!

We left Skykomish/Steven’s Pass with 180 miles standing between us and the end of the trail. We had heard rumors that it would be raining for the whole 100 miles to Stehekin (our last trail town) but we left town in high spirits. We had a gorgeous sunny afternoon to hike out and had thoroughly enjoyed resting at the Dinsomore’s Hiker Haven- they were the last established trail angels on trail.

Great trail angels at a much needed rest spot!

Great trail angels at a much needed rest spot!

We hiked around 9 miles out that afternoon and camped at a  lake with two section hikers. We woke up to an amazing sunrise with plans to do a bunch of miles to take advantage of the sunny day. We hiked into the Glacier Peak Wilderness and had our first views of Glacier Peak and the surrounding mountains. The mountains were sharp, rugged and cliffy ahead of us and we spent most of the day climbing up and down onto exposed ridges. Luckily the rain held off just about until we arrived at camp. As we hiked our last miles of the days fog and clouds began to rise up over the ridge we were walking on and down into the valley. When we arrived at camp we were surrounded in a misty foggy cloud and shortly after we finished dinner the rain began. We also ran into our friend Rabbit Stick that night and he gave us a HUGE bag of huckleberries that we ate by the spoonful!

Sunrise

Sunrise

Hiking!

Almost at our breakfast spot for the day!

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Glacier Peak

PCT

PCT

One of the many mountain lakes

One of the many mountain lakes

Views!

Views and sunshine make for happy hikers!

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Another pristine lake

Clouds starting to build

Clouds starting to build

And the fog starts to come in

And the fog starts to come in…

Almost to camp and surrounded by the mist and fog

Almost to camp and surrounded by the mist and fog

The next few days we were in a perpetual cloud..just like this.

The next few days we were in a perpetual cloud..just like this.

The next few days we were hiking in mist that would gradually turn into rain and then back to mist and clouds. We also had quite a few large and icy riving crossings to do. One of the themes of this area seemed to be bridges that were washed out, broken or made of giant blow-downs. There was also a brand new bridge built that added 5 miles to the trail- but we were so glad to have it there! This section also took us through an amazing old growth tree grove where some of the trees were over 500 or 600 years old. There were also numerous trees across the trail that we would go over, under and around. I had one of my coldest mornings on the trail in this section – we started early to catch the 3pm bus from the trail to Stehekin (our last trail town). We were hiking in the icy rain and through a trail that was at times more stream than trail. My toes rapidly went numb and we hiked as fast as we could in order to stay warm and to do 22 miles before 3pm in order to make the bus. We hiked fast (and at times ran) these 22 miles and we made it to the bus to Stehekin with just 10 minutes to spare and with a rain free afternoon! We headed into Stekehin for an afternoon of rest and what turned out to be a much needed and fun zero day.

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Huge washout

One of the many "bridges" we crossed

One of the many “bridges” we crossed

Broken bridge

Broken bridge

The rainy weather made for a very green and lush forest to hike through.

The rainy weather made for a very green and lush forest to hike through.

Old growth trees

Old growth trees

Cold morning views

Cold morning views

Glacial river

Glacial river

Trees down

Trees down

Watefall

Watefall

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Stream or trail?

North Cascades National Park!

North Cascades National Park!

We made it to High Bridge with 10 minutes to spare!

We made it to High Bridge with 10 minutes to spare!

This river flows into Lake Chelan- a 40ish mile long lake that the "town" of Stehekin is located on.

This river flows into Lake Chelan- a 40ish mile long lake that the “town” of Stehekin is located on.

Stehekin- According to trail legend Billy Goat- is the Best place in America. We found it hard to disagree. There really isn’t very much there, and I can’t imagine that there are more than 100 full time residents. A post office, resort, and an absolutely phenomenal bakery is really all there is. Though there is a road that runs through town, it doesn’t lead anywhere- the road runs the length of the valley, bordered on one side by high mountains and the other by the long Lake Chelan. Lake Chelan is a beautiful blue-green lake fed by glacial meltwater. In our day and a half in Stehekin, we visited the Bakery 3 times, spent two wonderful nights with friends by the lake, and soaked up some much needed sun. By the following morning, when it was time to leave, we felt ready to set out for the last 80 miles, and the few days of rain we knew were in the forecast.

Instigate soaking it all in

Instigate soaking it all in

Kale and Whiskey in Stehekin- what else?

Kale and Whiskey in Stehekin- what else?

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Left to Right-
Scrub, Instigate, Carrot (back row), Lotus, Hermes, Spark, Blur, Robin Hood, Tallywa, Samba, Jackrabbit, Rabbit Stick

Hiker boxes in Stehekin, the last trail town

Hiker boxes in Stehekin, the last trail town

Leaving Stehekin the trail follows valleys up to 6000 and 7000 feet, where it stays virtually until the end. The first day out we had great weather, and could really feel the cool fall air. Of the seasonal foliage that there was in the mostly evergreen forests, much was changing in to its fall colors. A great group of people hiked out of Stehekin at the same time as us, and everyone from this group finished the same day as us. Our first night out it rained overnight, and we had a few showers the next morning, but the rain unexpectedly held off for most of the first day, giving one last great day of hiking. Of course, this pattern did not hold, and by the following morning, until after we finished, there was some form of precipitation coming down from the sky. Our second day out of Stehekin we got some amazing trail magic at Harts Pass, just 30 miles from the Canadian Border. We had hiked 27 miles to get there knowing that in case it was pouring we could always sleep in the pit toilets there- fortunately it stayed dry enough that we were warm and happy sleeping in our tent. We also managed to avoid any unexpected stays in the pit toilet bathrooms- some hikers weren’t quite as lucky though. Serpent Slayer and Slick B. proved to be an amazing trail angel duo, and they kept the fire, food and music going until hiker midnight- these days sometime around 9:00 PM.The next morning , fueled by pancakes and hot coffee we headed out in to another day of rain, but the knowledge that it was our last full day kept us going strong and happy! Recent washouts the size of swimming pools slowed us slightly, but they weren’t quite as bad as the trail rumors purported them to be- check out photos below. It began to snow on us towards the end of the day- by the following morning we woke up in 5 inches of snow! The snow made it a little bit harder to get out of the tent, but Blur and Goodall left around 7 AM and that motivated us to get up and going.

The trail in Washington is... tough

The trail in Washington is… tough

2601 miles!

2601 miles!

Scrub on a big climb

Scrub on a big climb

Beautiful

Beautiful

Sub- Alpine Larch

Sub- Alpine Larch

Unexpected sunny weather!

Trail Magic!

Trail Magic!

Scrub soaking it all in

Scrub soaking it all in

On our last day, after two totally surreal hours of hiking (and 5 months of hiking before it), we hit the Canadian Border. Both of us had always imagined this to be the climactic moment for the end of the trip, but on arrival, it felt a little subdued, knowing there were still 8 miles left until we got to the road. We finished with Jackrabbit, Instigate, Spark, and Scrub. Cookie, Blur, and Goodall finished an hour ahead of us, and Carrot, Robin Hood, Samba and Tallywa finished a few hours after us. The real moment when it felt like the trail ended was when-… well it was when the trail ended- it hit a road that it did not cross. We arrived at Manning Park Resort, and sat around, warming up with friends and relishing in that moment. It was blissful.

We woke up to 5 inches of snow around our tent on the last day!

We woke up to 5 inches of snow around our tent on the last day!

Snowy Trail!

Snowy Trail!

2,660.1 miles

2,660.1 miles

Yoga at the Monument!

Yoga at the Monument!

The monument

The monument

The literal end of the trail at the road...

The literal end of the trail at the road…

Manning Park- no more walking

Manning Park- no more walking

Staying warm after a five month hike.

Staying warm after a five month hike.

So- what’s next? For now we are in Bellingham staying with Luke’s friend Ben and having an amazing time. Next up is Seattle and then Portland and then San Francisco. After we take a few days to rest and re-acclimate to the world we will have some post trip reflections, gear reviews and some additional photos up on the blog. Until then- thanks to everyone who has supported us throughout this hike! Family, friends, sponsors, strangers who became friends, complete strangers and others have been so nice and generous and excited to help us finish this hike- THANK YOU!

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Lake Tahoe!

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Iris along the trail.

Wow! Its July and the heat is on in Central California! Ever since dropping down out of the High Sierra it has been HOT! After our few days off in Mammoth Lakes, we’ve been alternatively hiking 25-27 mile days and taking short, slow days. Hiking in to Yosemite NP, a big rain system moved in, and we woke up in Tuolumne to cold temps and blowing rain. We had originally been planning to hike in to the Valley, a 25 mile hike, ending at Happy Isles, to finish up the John Muir Trail- but due to rain we ended up hitching in to the valley, to see the sights, and to meet up with Gingersnap, a trail angel I had met while hiking the Appalachian Trail. She also happens to be a ranger in Yosemite, and has a house just below Yosemite Falls- so we called her and piled a few hikers in to the house to dry off and relax on the couch.

Hiking north of Tuolumne, we were basically in a swamp for two days- and with the moisture came the bugs. LOTS of BUGS. We were probably surrounded by 200 mosquitoes at any given moment for about 2.5 days. The terrain was steep, and tough- adding to the challenge. Both Becky and I agree that the section of trail north of Tuolumne was the hardest section yet- we both faced difficult mental and physical challenges.

The tough hiking was rewarded with both some beautiful views and the reappearance of lots of trial magic! The mosquitoes were less of a problem after 3 days outside of Tuolumne, and the views just opened up- see some photos below. Additionally, we got trail magic three days in a row around Sonora pass, which bumped us up to South Lake Tahoe, where we are now, with ease.

Looking forward we kind of don’t know what to expect! We knew what we were getting in to with the High Sierra, but neither of us really knows what the hiking will be like in Northern California. We expect it to be hot- but we also know the walking will be getting easier- really it already has. Less vertical feet climbed and descended per day, and smoother trail should make for plenty of bigger days.

Anyways, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves from here on out- they are in reverse chronological order, so check them out from the bottom of the page, up!

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Since leaving the High Sierra we have been hiking through some gorgeous alpine meadows, smelling of mint and sage, with wildflowers in bloom!

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Ditching our Bear Canisters!! They were required for the last 300 miles of trail, and we couldn’t be happier to get rid of them!!

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Leaving Sonora Pass

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20130702-112220.jpg Some of the steepest snow we’ve encountered yet!

A typical Afternoon storm in the Northern Sierra.
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PCT hikers near Sonora Pass

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Spider with a Mosquito

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We are both 1000 milers!

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Sunset at Glen Aulin, Yosemite NP.

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Lotus enjoying some of the best spring water on the trail with Billy Goat, a living trail legend. He may have hiked more miles on the PCT than anyone else.

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Yosemite NP

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Hitching to the Yosemite High Country in an RV! This Welch family was kind enough to drive us around and feed us Green Tea and Cookies- This may have been our favorite hitch on the trip so far.

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Staying in a Yosemite Park Ranger’s home, just beneath Yosemite Falls. EPIC!

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Vernal Falls in Yosemite Valley!

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Next to a giant Sequoia!

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Walking to a Sequoia grove, L to R- Robin Hood, Trail Angel who drove us around, Lotus, and Mermaid.

Tarantula Wasp!

 

We ran across this wild scene the other day.

The waspy- fly like thing you see is a ‘Tarantula Wasp,’ and its prey, of all things, is a Tarantula. Well, Prey is the wrong word. The wasp temporarily paralyzes the tarantula with its sting, and drags it to a specially prepared nest. It then lays an egg in the tarantula’s abdomen, which soon hatches a small wasp larva. The larva then eats its way through the tarantula, avoiding the vital organs, keeping it alive as long as possible. Eventually, after a few weeks, the wasp breaks free of the tarantula as it becomes an adult.

Oh, and the sting of the wasp has been described as “immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.”

Good thing we didn’t know about that as I filmed it.

 

-Hermes & Lotus

P.S. We’re in Wrightwood, CA, 369 miles North of the border, and its day 23!

210 Miles & Our Tent Only Collapsed Twice Last Night!

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Hermes resting in a tree…

Well the last 100 miles have flown by! We left Warner Springs last Wednesday feeling rested and refreshed after a hot tub, showers, huge dinner and a day of lounging in the shade. We hiked out around 6 miles and had an early camp next to a small spring. It was a campsite that reminded us both of the East Coast and home, it even had mosquitoes!

 

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Day Nine!

The next day we hiked around 20 miles from water source to water source and ended up at our most crowded campsite yet. The “herd” is in full swing and we seem to be right in the midst of it. Before getting to our camp site, we spent a few hours hanging out at “Trail Angel Mike’s” out in the middle of a dry section. When we got there we were given cold water, strawberries, epsom salt foot baths, and vegetarian tacos! We have been on the receiving end of so much trail magic so far!  We have been consistently hiking with a few other people and have gotten to know a bunch of hikers around us. Lately, we have been meeting more and more people that we are catching up with and have been lucky that almost everyone we met have been awesome and interesting people.

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Desert bloom & views

The day after Hermes and I left our crowded campsite we hiked a long day with a big downhill section before we would get to mile 151 where there was a road and an easy hitch to Paradise Cafe to be found. I was having a tough morning and was slogging down the final few miles of downhill with my knees feeling each step when we caught sight of the road and a big tent set up at the trail and road junction. It was more trail magic! Dr. Sole- who helped me with my blisters at Kick Off- was set up with shade, sodas, beers, and his foot triage station. We took full advantage of this after we got a quick ride to Paradise Cafe where I had a giant burrito while Hermes and most of the other hikers there ate huge bacon covered burgers.

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Yucca

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Mile # “kind”

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Trail Angel Mike’s

After leaving Dr. Soles we hiked a few miles and found an early campsite for another 20+/- mile day. We got up the next morning and started climbing, and climbing and climbing. We were nearing the San Jacinto Mountain region. The higher we climbed, the more the landscape changed. We started noticing pine trees, jagged mountains ahead of us and steep cliffs lining the trail. We had a beautiful day of hiking where we got up over 8,000 feet for the first time. We switchbacked and climbed all day through the forest. Hermes and I had a goal of going about 12 miles before we reached our next water source and where would would take our mid-day “siesta.” When we got there, there was a note from our friend Noah saying it was a steep and rocky climb down to stagnant green water. Hermes ended up making the climb down to get us another two liters of gross mothy water, but at least we wouldn’t be stuck without water. Late that night we camped in a windy campsite just a few miles short of Idylwid- where we were headed for our next resupply.

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Morning sun

The next morning we hiked two miles before we hit the Devil’s Slide trail- 2.5 miles of switchbacks down to town. On our way down the trail we met other hikers who were just leaving Idylwild and who were full of tips on the best places to eat and where to go. We met up with a few of our other friends and grabbed a cabin for 7 of us in town after eating a huge breakfast. We did a quick resupply shop, I got new shoes, and we hung around our cabin with other hikers for the evening and made a big pasta dinner.

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Day 10

We decided to leave Idylwild the next morning, even though we kept hearing reports of weather coming in. We had planned to hike San Jacinto and hit the peak at 10,000+ feet, with the weather reports though we decided to skip the peak and stick to the trail where we would approach 9,000 feet. We hiked out with our friend Chad and had a cold and rainy start to the morning. Chad and I made some rain skirts out of trash bags and hiked in those. We spent the next 7 hours hiking non-stop in the freezing rain, through the clouds and with big gusts of wind. Every time we would stop hiking one of us would get too cold and we’d hurry on ahead.

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“Dr. Sole” surprised us at mile 150ish with some trail magic!

We finally went up and around Mount San Jacinto and started the descent onto Fuller Ridge- which has about 20 miles of switchbacks descending into the desert. As we came across Fuller Ridge, Hermes and I started singing and hoping for the sun to come out- we finally got some blue sky and eventually some sun. As soon as we got up and over the ridge and started going down, we were out of pine trees and back in the desert. We caught up with Chad and the three of us found a campsite that we thought “wasn’t that windy” at first. Hermes and my tent only collapsed twice in the wind last night and after the second collapse every time the wind gusted we thought it would just blow away.

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Sun!!

This morning we finished the hike down Fuller Ridge and came out onto a very windy flat desert area with wind farms lining the ridges. We hiked 12 miles to Ziggy and the Bear’s- two amazing trail angels who sat us down and gave us foot baths as soon as we walked in. We are spending the afternoon, and maybe the night, here and hiking on towards our next resupply at Big Bear. OH! and I got my trail name- Lotus!

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Hermes eating dinner

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Manzanillo Tree

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View from our sleeping bags

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Loving the PCT!

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Our first real view of Mount San Jacinto

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From the desert to pine trees in just a few miles…

Up at 8,000+ feet!
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Hermes on a side trail up at 8,000+ feet!

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View of San Jacinto

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Views from the ridge

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Walking on the edge

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Our cabin in Idylwild- big hiker dinner!

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Chad & Lotus in some fancy rain skirts

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Climbing in 35 degrees, rain and big wind!

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More fancy rain clothes

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Blue sky again!

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Sun over the desert as we descend onto Fuller Ridge

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View from our campsite

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Sunrise

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200 miles in on day 13!!

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San Jacinto is behind us now..

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We made it out onto the desert floor